These land­scapes are some­thing short of idyl­lic

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS&STYLE - BY MARK JENK­INS style@wash­post.com

In the mid-19th cen­tury, when Euro­pean painters be­gan drag­ging their easels and brushes out­side, na­ture was of­ten seen as in­fi­nite in beauty. But the cli­mate, so to speak, has changed. Artists still de­pict flow­ers, moun­tains and sun­sets, but these days, they also mount shows with ti­tles such as “Mi­gra­tion of Pesti­lence.”

This col­lab­o­ra­tive in­stal­la­tion re­sponds to the ex­panded range on a hot­ter Earth of such vec­tor­borne dis­eases as malaria, dengue, Zika and West Nile virus. El­lyn Weiss, Son­dra N. Arkin and Veron­ica Sza­lus have filled the Otis Street Arts Project gallery with sculp­tures and found ob­jects that evoke the mi­cro­scopic and the cat­a­strophic. Among the di­verse ma­te­ri­als, both nat­u­ral and syn­thetic, are a pile of branches and crum­bling dried leaves, and clouds of white plas­tic bags dan­gle over­heard. Many items are torn, warped or burned.

This is fa­mil­iarly scorched ter­rain for Weiss, who worked with two other artists to make a 2014 ex­hi­bi­tion about the warm­ing po­lar re­gions for dis­play at the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Science. “Mi­gra­tion of Pesti­lence” is an edgier, or at least less pretty, show at a funkier venue. The ware­house space suits pesti­lent pieces such as a cor­ner swathed in black plas­tic tarps, and spi­rals of white mesh punc­tu­ated by rusted metal can lids — the nu­clei, per­haps, of a su­per­size coil of harm­ful virus.

Al­though the com­po­nents aren’t cred­ited to in­di­vid­ual artists, some are rec­og­niz­able from pre­vi­ous shows. The sus­pended wire forms are Arkin’s “shadow paint­ings,” one of sev­eral in­stal­la­tion el­e­ments that con­vey fragility and mu­ta­tion. Those ox­i­dized lids prob­a­bly come from Sza­lus, who of­ten works with alu­minum cans. But what’s cru­cial is that the parts con­sti­tute a com­pelling whole. One of their goals, the col­lab­o­ra­tors write, is to con­jure “the in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness of hu­man and nat­u­ral sys­tems.” And to sug­gest, omi­nously, that they can un­ravel to­gether. Mi­gra­tion of Pesti­lence On view through Feb. 18 at Otis Street Arts Project, 3706 Otis St., Mount Rainier. 202-550-4634. otis­stree­tart­spro­ject.blogspot.com.

Sheila Crider and Ni­hal Thadani

Mak­ing ob­jects to rep­re­sent un­mak­ing is also Sheila Crider’s method in “Jan­uary ’15-Oc­to­ber ’16,” a show of pa­per, fab­ric and wood pieces at the District of Columbia Arts Cen­ter. The se­lec­tion in­cludes “Wa­ter Med­i­ta­tion,” whose blue tri­an­gles sug­gest ocean waves un­fouled by mankind. The cen­ter­piece, how­ever, is “Tox­i­c­ity in the Air,” a se­ries that de­picts poi­soned skies and sooty clouds.

The notes for the show were writ­ten by none other than El­lyn Weiss, who com­mends Crider for ad­dress­ing “the most crit­i­cal is­sue of our time.” Like “Pesti­lence,” Crider’s work in­cludes many hang­ing ob­jects that cast fore­bod­ing shad­ows as they im­ply the universe above our heads. “Ur­ban Runoff ” ar­rays more than 50 grubby sam­ples made from painted dryer lint. This crypto-sci­en­tific dis­play re­calls lo­cal artist Julie Wolfe’s jars of wa­ter col­lected from ur­ban sources. But where Wolfe adds chem­i­cals to elicit vivid hues, Crider of­fers mostly in­dus­trial shades of gray. Those blue pa­per waves of­fer just about the only color in this show that a 19th-cen­tury land­scape painter might ap­pre­ci­ate.

A few steps away, in DCAC’s Nano Gallery, Ni­hal Ke­ceci Thadani is show­ing small (if not lit­er­ally “nano”) acrylic paint­ings. These “Mys­ter­ies” are ab­stract but most re­sem­ble land­scapes, and the lo­cal artist’s tech­nique is a tra­di­tional one. She lay­ers thin glazes to sug­gest that light is fil­ter­ing through the images, like sun through clouds. Thadani’s pic­tures are solid but translu­cent, tiny yet bot­tom­less. Sheila Crider: Jan­uary ’15Oc­to­ber ’16 and Ni­hal Ke­ceci Thadani: Mys­ter­ies On view through Feb. 12 and March 19, re­spec­tively, at the District of Columbia Arts Cen­ter, 2438 18th St. NW. 202-462-7833. dcarts­cen­ter.org/ ex­hi­bi­tions.htm.

Sandy LeBrun-Evans & Colleen Spencer Hen­der­son

The pho­tos in the twinned shows at Mul­ti­ple Ex­po­sures Gallery are all ru­ral land­scapes, and mostly black and white. Yet Sandy LeBrun-Evans’s “Hard Truths” and Colleen Spencer Hen­der­son’s “Ir­ish Land­scapes” are as dif­fer­ent as their lo­ca­tions: West Vir­ginia and western Ire­land.

That’s not just be­cause LeBrun-Evans’s pic­tures doc­u­ment eco­nomic de­cline, while Hen­der­son’s por­tray a land with no no­tice­able in­dus­try. (So the area’s com­mer­cial en­gine must be tourism.) “Jobs, jobs, jobs” prom­ises a cam­paign sign in West Vir­ginia, but aban­doned mines and build­ings abound. In this ac­count of Ire­land, the prin­ci­pal man-made struc­tures are a church and a bridge. Surf and sky dom­i­nate.

Those ex­panses are show­cases for light, which is Hen­der­son’s es­sen­tial sub­ject. The heav­ens glow, and the wa­ter mir­rors their sheen. Such in­di­vid­ual mo­ments are tran­si­tory, of course, but the link is eter­nal — at least by the stan­dards of hu­man per­cep­tion.

The mo­ments frozen in LeBrun-Evans’s pho­tos also are still, yet con­vey a sense of mo­tion. Many of her pic­tures in­clude rail­road tracks or line­di­vided high­ways, and these path­ways usu­ally lead the eye from one side of the im­age to the other. (A no­table ex­cep­tion is “Mine En­trance,” on which the tracks lead into a dark void.) The rib­bons of steel or asphalt are a dy­namic com­po­si­tional de­vice, but they also hint at a mes­sage: We gotta get out of this place. Sandy LeBrun-Evans: Hard Truths and Colleen Spencer Hen­der­son: Ir­ish Land­scapes On view through Feb. 12 at Mul­ti­ple Ex­po­sures Gallery, Tor­pedo Fac­tory, 105 N. Union St., Alexan­dria. 703-683-2205. mul­ti­ple­ex­po­sures­gallery.com.

Take­fumi Hori

Ja­pan-bred New Yorker Take­fumi Hori’s ab­stract paint­ings are coats over many col­ors. In the pic­tures in Long View Gallery’s “New Work,” the skin is usu­ally glossy white or gleam­ing gold, but other hues can be glimpsed be­low, and amid the scrapes, smudges and scrawls. The lay­ered sur­faces sug­gest wabi (in­ten­tion­ally im­per­fect) Ja­panese pot­tery and ap­prox­i­mate the ex­posed brick of the venue’s walls.

For his pre­vi­ous Long View show, Hori added rich col­ors to a pal­ette that em­pha­sized white, black and va­ri­eties of metal­lic leaf. Two of the new pic­tures are evenly di­vided be­tween bat­tered fields of gold and, re­spec­tively, green or blue. But such hues are largely sub­merged in this se­lec­tion, which con­trasts ab­stract-ex­pres­sion­ist ges­tures with the pomp of ear­lier eras’ re­gal and re­li­gious art. The most com­mand­ing can­vasses fea­ture large gold cir­cles, ideal in form and rough in ex­e­cu­tion. They are sym­bols of in­fin­ity, teth­ered to earth.

Take­fumi Hori: New Work On view through Feb. 12 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-4788. longview­gallerydc.com.

OTIS STREET ARTS PROJECT

An in­stal­la­tion de­tail of “Mi­gra­tion of Pesti­lence” at Otis Street Arts Project, in which Veron­ica Sza­lus, El­lyn Weiss and Son­dra N. Arkin imag­ine the cat­a­strophic ef­fects of mi­cro­scopic in­vaders.

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